As fun—and educational—as iPads can be, when it comes to parents playing learning games with their children (as opposed to kids playing by themselves and turning into zombies), there really isn’t an app for that. Until now. TigerFace Games has developed a number of learning apps that allow parents and children to either compete or [...]
Dear Mr. Dad: I’m pregnant and it seems that the more my husband and I read, the more confusing the whole thing gets. One “expert” says that I should stay away from any alcohol. Another says it’s okay. One says sushi could be deadly, someone else says it’s not. One says I should be careful not to put on too much weight, while another says it’s more dangerous to put on too little. And this goes on and on. Do you have any suggestions for how to filter out the myths from reality?
A: The amount of pregnancy-related information out there is staggering. And, as you’ve discovered, everyone seems to have an opinion on what’s good, bad, healthy, or dangerous. Unfortunately, as you’ve also discovered, it’s really hard to figure out who’s right and who’s completely full of it. Fortunately, there are a few resources that can help.
Dear Mr. Dad: My wife is breastfeeding our three-month-old baby, but wants to wean the baby and go back to work. I heard somewhere that it’s better for babies to nurse for longer. But does it really matter when she stops? Is there some actual “right” time to introduce solid foods?
A: I teach a class for expectant dads in San Francisco, and that question comes up a lot. The short answer to both of your questions is, ”Yes.” It does matter when your wife weans your baby, and there is a “right time.” The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that, barring any medical reasons to the contrary, babies should have nothing but breast milk for the first six months. Then, gradually introduce solids and phase out the breast milk over the next six months.
However, if you or your wife has—or is at risk of developing—diabetes, that “right time” is more of a window than a hard line: Somewhere between four and five months. Introducing solids too early or too late may cause real problems.
On the too-early end, researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado just found that weaning a child before four months doubles the child’s chances of developing type 1 diabetes (which used to be called “juvenile onset” diabetes). So at the very least, you’ll want to encourage your wife to hold off on weaning and keep breastfeeding until four months old.
By the way, extending breastfeeding doesn’t have to interfere with your wife’s return to work. She can pump several bottles of milk at night or in the morning before she goes to work. You or another caregiver can give that milk—and the benefits of breastfeeding—to the baby during the day. Most employers are legally required to provide a place for nursing women to pump (however, that “place” could be a nice lounge or it could just as easily be a stall in the women’s bathroom).
Unfortunately, not enough people follow these guidelines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 40 percent of moms introduce solid food before their baby hits four months. Worse yet, nine percent of moms have given their baby solid food before four weeks.
Okay, let’s talk about the other end of the window. If you’re able to get your wife to breastfeed for four months, see if you can convince her to go all the way to six. Several studies have shown that those two extra months make a huge difference, cutting in half the risk of coming down with an ear infection and/or pneumonia. In addition, for babies with a genetic diabetes risk, the same Colorado study that found that introducing solid foods too soon increases diabetes risk, also found that babies who didn’t get solid foods until after six months had triple the type-1-diabetes risk of those weaned before six months.
“In summary, there appears to be a safe window in which to introduce solid foods between four and five months of age,” wrote Brittni Frederiksen, the study’s lead author. “Solid foods should be introduced while continuing to breastfeed to minimize [type 1 diabetes] risk in genetically susceptible children.”
Remember, introducing solid foods and weaning aren’t always the same thing. In other words, it’s fine to do both at the same time. In fact, the Colorado study found that introducing wheat or barley while continuing to breastfeed actually reduced diabetes risk.
Hopefully, I’ve given you and your wife something to think about. But before you make a final decision about when to wean your baby, make sure to talk with your pediatrician.
Clorox, makers of bleach and many other consumer products, just came out with a clever article called “6 Mistakes New Dads Make.” The article gleefully tells us that “Like dogs or other house pets, new Dads are filled with good intentions but lacking the judgment and fine motor skills to execute well.” And that’s just in the first paragraph. The rest of the article is so condescending and insulting that it’s hard to know where to start tearing it apart. So, in no particular order, here are 7 colossal mistakes Clorox made by publishing that article.
- They’re alienating potential consumers. With $5.5 billion in annual sales, you’d think that Clorox would have noticed that men–especially dads–are accounting for a growing share of household purchases. That’s true in traditional households (whatever that means), but it’s doubly true in households where at-home dads are making the majority of day-to-day purchasing decisions, and in single-dad-headed households–a fast-growing demographic–where dads are making 100% of the purchases. Even if Clorox used the ridiculously outdated statistic that women account for 80% of purchasing, that still leaves 20%–a whopping $1.1 billion worth of Clorox products that men are buying. $1.1 billion that Clorox is apparently willing to walk away from. I’m sure Clorox shareholders aren’t going to be too happy that the company just played Russian Roulette with a fifth of its annual sales. And lost.
- They’re alienating existing customers. I’ve done a lot of research and writing about the portrayals of fathers in the media. And a number of advertising execs told me that they ridiculed dads because women don’t like to be ridiculed and would never stand for it. There’s another factor at work here, too. Fatherhood is a women’s issue. Moms want their partners to be more involved and they want to see images of involved men. Women, probably more than any other group, understand the power of media messages and advertising to shape our consciousness. Many countries have banned ultra-thin models because there’s a direct connection between images of the “ideal” woman and eating disorders. the words “mailmen” and “policemen” have been replaced by “mail carriers.” We talk about “the men and women of the armed forces,” despite the fact that women account for less than 20% of military. We do all this because we want our daughters to grow up knowing they can be and do anything that boys can. Bottom line, women are going to be pretty ticked that Clorox is telling everyone that dads are useless and stupid. Useless, stupid dads aren’t involved dads. And women want involved dads.
- They’re falling back on old, old, old (and never accurate) stereotypes about men. According to Clorox, we’re too dumb to take their babies in from the rain. We’re so out of touch with life that we can’t tell whether our children’s clothes fit. We’re so blind that we won’t notice “the caked-on layer of dried yellowish crust (applesauce? sweet potato? Play-Doh?) surrounding Baby’s mouth and spattered baby food onto her bib.” And we’re so irresponsible that we’ll pop open a cold one, plop the baby down to eat dinner off the floor, and watch endless hours of inappropriate TV. (We’re also apparently so illiterate that we’d never think to “embrace parental sacrifice and crack open a book”).
- They’re incredibly sexist. Imagine an article on a major financial services company’s website that spent a few hundred words talking about how girls aren’t good at math, how women can’t park cars or balance their checkbooks, that diamonds are a girl’s best friend and how all they want in life is to marry a rich guy, and how life was so much better when females were in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant.
- They don’t understand irony. The idiot who wrote that article–and the team of even bigger idiots who signed off on it–clearly understand the power of media messages: Dads, they say, “have been inspired by raunchy comedies to bring babies to inappropriate places like casinos, pool halls, and poetry readings. None of these places are healthy for baby.” Okay, let’s assume that’s true. Wouldn’t it follow that those same dads might be so disturbed by how they’re being portrayed on the company’s website that they’d never want to buy a Clorox product again? Hmm.
- They assume that all dads behave the same way and that all readers of their web content will find humor where there really isn’t any. It doesn’t take a marketing genius to tell you that treating a group as large as fathers or mothers or men or women as a single demographic is incredibly naive–and incredibly bad for the bottom line.
- They underestimated how offended people would be. And by “people” I mean everyone except employees of Clorox.
Thanks for the memories, Clorox, because as of right now, any of your products I might have around the house are going to be exactly that. Tossed out and replaced with the Costco brand.
Dear Mr. Dad: I’m very concerned about my husband. We’re just a month away from our due date and although he has been very involved and attentive throughout the pregnancy, in the last couple of weeks he’s becoming more and more withdrawn. He seems annoyed with me a lot, and when I try to get him to talk about his fears and anxieties as an expectant father, all he says is that he has them. That’s it. Will I ever get my old husband back again or am I going to be in this thing alone?
A: What you’re going through is pretty common. That doesn’t make it any easier, but sometimes it’s comforting to know that you’re not alone. It may also help you to know that there’s a very good chance that your husband will return to normal fairly soon after the baby arrives.
Dear Mr. Dad: I’m 19 and going to college nearly 1,000 miles from home. The problem is that my helicopter parents won’t let me alone. For example, since I don’t have any income, they’re paying for my cell phone, but they call me nearly every day and ask where I am and what I’m doing. They go through my bills and demand to know who I’m calling and why. And they’re constantly emailing and calling my instructors asking how I’m doing. It’s incredibly embarrassing. I’ve asked them to give me some space but they refuse. What can I do?
A: I’ve talked a lot in this column about how important it is for parents to stay involved in their children’s lives, to take an interest in their friends, their activities, and their education. Let’s give your parents the benefit of the doubt and assume that they have the best intentions—they love you and want you to succeed in life. Great. But there’s a clear line between being supportive and involved and being an intrusive helicopter parent—a line your parents crossed long ago.
The good news (actually, it’s not good news at all) is that you’re not alone. In a recent study of more than 400 college students from around the country, 25% said that their parents “make important decisions for me.” And a third of the parents admitted that they made important decisions for their college-age children.
Ideally, the three of you would be able to talk this through, so even though you’ve already done that without success, I suggest you try again, this time be firmer, but not hostile (in a few years, when you have kids of your own, you’ll appreciate having your parents around to help out). You might want to mention that the same study I mentioned above found that helicopter parents’ intrusive behavior backfired, decreasing students’ engagement in school and increasing their likelihood of skipping classes and turning in assignments late. According to the researchers, by not giving you the opportunity to solve your own problems and make your own decisions, helicopter parents may be robbing their kids of “the experiences necessary to develop skills that are essential for success in marriage, careers and adult social interactions.” You can read more about this study on helicopter parents here.
If mom and dad still don’t back off, you’ll have to take more serious steps to protect your privacy. First, get a job so you can pay for your own phone. Keep your old number so your parents can reach you in case of emergency, but get a new number too. Next, talk to school administrators and your instructors. Most colleges and universities have policies that prohibit them from discussing your grades or much else with anyone you haven’t specifically designated. Be very clear that your parents are NOT on the A list.
If none of that works, there are other alternatives. Like you, Aubrey Ireland of Lakewood, Kansas didn’t appreciate her parents’ constant intrusions. But when they told the head of her department that she needed treatment for mental illness and then accused her of being promiscuous and abusing drugs, Aubrey took them to court, according to an article in the journal of the American Bar Association. Her parents countersued, demanding that Aubrey repay more than $60,000 that her helicopter parents had spent on her education. But a judge granted a restraining order requiring ma and pa to stay at least 500 feet from their daughter and have no contact with her. Pretty extreme, but a story that might resonate with your parents.